Mental shift

Manage your mind and you can manage your life


Posted by jytmkh on September 3, 2008

Ravik Bhattacharya

THE trigger to the violence in Kandhamal may have been Saraswati’s murder but it has been stoked by a simmering resentment between the district’s two main communities: the Kondhs and the Panas. At its heart lies a tale of caste equations and a fight for land.
Though both the tribal Kondhs and the Dalit Panas converted to Christianity, the distance between the two has grown in the last decade. The Kondhs may be more in number but the Panas are more prosperous and that has now become a major cause of conflict. Matters have worsened in the last few years with the Panas demanding more rights. According to the law, the Kondhs who converted to Christianity continue to have a right to their land but the Dalit Panas who converted to Christianity, lose their SC status.
The Christian Panas have been demanding the same status and rights as the Christian Kondhs. The Panas say that since they speak the tribal language Kui, they too should get the benefits given to the tribal Kondhs. The Panas’s fight got a fresh impetus when in 2002, an amended Presidential order in Orissa declared the ‘Kuis’ to be STs. In June 2007, an NGO called the Phulbani Kui Janakalyan Sangha filed a petition in the Orissa High Court, seeking tribal status for Dalits since they speak the local tribal language, Kui. The organisation forwarded a certificate from the then minister for coal and mines, Padmanava Behere, to press for their cause.
Brahma Behera, president of the Pana Samaj, says, “The Panas speak the same language as the Kondhs and should get the same rights. The recent tension was just waiting to happen as land rights and religion are being mixed up.” On July 12, 2007, the HC asked the government to look into the matter and make the necessary corrections. The state government, however, said that speaking tribal language was not enough to give a community a tribal status. The state government’s explanation came too late for the Kondh tribals, who, opposed to the tribal status for Panas, launched a protest under an umbrella called the Zilla Kui Samanvaya Samity. The Kondhs also grudge the Panas their prosperity.
In fact, in the disgruntled Kondhs, Saraswati, the Kendriya Margdarshak of the VHP who had been working here for the past 40 years, saw an opportunity for re-conversion and he set about trying to woo them back into the Hindu fold.
And with his killing on August 23, the string of conversions, reconversions and competing for rights in Orissa’s tribal heartland snapped.
_Ravik Bhattacharya

(Indian Express)


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